All in Memoir

The Tent

The tent is huge—the largest I’ve ever seen. It’s been set up in a grassy field next to the small Sears store. The Sears catalog is where, when I still believed in Santa, I got my ideas for what I wanted for Christmas or, when I was older, for what to tell my parents I wanted and, when even older, I got a thrill from the models in underwear. But this Sears is just for mowers, refrigerators, washing machines, and other boring stuff. Nothing a kid would want, except maybe a riding lawn mower.

But tonight, the Sears store is not on my mind. The Tent Revival is. It’s the biggest show in our small town. And I am a little kid with big, frightened eyes.

How to Turn a Physicist into a Life Coach

My wife, Bobbi, and I moved to the Washington, DC area in the fall of 1983. We had been living in Lubbock, Texas, where I had a post-doctoral fellowship to build a pico-second spectroscopy lab. If you're a laser, science, engineering geek like me, that kind of post-doc is your idea of a good time. But all good things must end, and I had landed a one-year National Research Council fellowship at the Naval Research Laboratory. It was potentially renewable for a second year. Bobbi and I figured a one- or two-year lark in DC would be a wonderful diversion before we settled down somewhere else to get on with our real lives.

The Courage to Sing

Emily is singing the chant solo to the Kirtan workshop participants. She is also one of the participants, but it is her turn to sing the Call. Emily has a lovely voice. She knows the chant by heart. She sings the Call beautifully. We then sing the Response, repeating what she has just sung. We sound pretty good, even though some of us can't carry a tune or stay on the beat. Not so long ago, I would have been one of them. But this workshop is not about perfection, it's about using your voice to get out of your head. It's about sharing your voice in community, about finding your inner truth while chanting in a room filled with erstwhile strangers. This is the kind of crazy stuff that regularly happens at Esalen Institute.

I am up next to sing the call after Emily.